Top 5 Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Are you passionate about helping others with addiction issues? Our Top 5 Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling helps students find the perfect online graduate program for their career goals.

It is no secret that substance use disorders are a national crisis in the United States. The epidemic has created a huge need for educated, experienced, and compassionate people as substance abuse counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the field to grow 23% by 2026 and would account for an additional 60,000 new jobs nationwide.

The following Top 5 Online Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling all require Bachelor's degrees, but not necessarily in addiction, health, or psychology. People from many different academic backgrounds pursue careers as addiction counselors, often drawn to the field because of their personal experiences overcoming substance use problems. Some of the programs below also emphasize different types of addictive behavior, such as gambling or sexual addictions.

Other counseling programs emphasize the importance of cultural differences in approaching addiction treatment. Each program is set up to ensure that their graduates are prepared to apply for certification in the state of the institution offering the degree. Certification requirements vary from state to state. If you are not a resident of the state where the program is at, be sure to check certification and licensure requirements for counselors in the state where you plan to pursue your career.

Substance abuse counselors earn an average of approximately $45,000 a year. It is a career path for those who are enriched by acting as an agent of positive change and less motivated by a large paycheck. There is a wide range of possible environments for substance abuse counselors. They can be found in virtually any organization– be it a residential or outpatient mental health setting, a community clinic, a university, or a hospital. If you're ready to start your path towards helping others lead sober, healthy lives, our Top 5 Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling is your go-to guide.


Each ranking published by Top Master's in Healthcare requires a lot of research, fact checking, and interest in the world of higher education and medical industries. The editors of TMHC utilize credible data resources from academic journals, government databases, job recruitment organizations, and, especially, degree alumni reviews. TMHC rankings are scored specifically on degree outcomes, alumni reviews, degree affordability, acceptance rates, MCAT and GRE scores, and degree completion rates.

To be considered for ranking by TMHC, degrees must be accredited by the National Science Foundation and, thus, provide appropriate doctorate certifications within the healthcare field and have institutional affiliations with scholarly peer-reviewed publications. For more information about how TMHC scores individual medical degrees, please visit our About Us page.

Here are the Top 5 Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling for 2020!

#5. Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

Master of Science in Addiction Counseling


The 36-credit hour Master of Science in Addiction Counseling at Grand Canyon University integrates counseling ethics, theories, and assessment. Students complete classes such as Group Counseling Theory and Practice, Family Issues and Addictive Disorders, and Counseling Chemically Dependent Adolescents. All students earn four credits of pre-practicum and practicum/internship. Practicum hours vary from 50 direct contact hours to 150 hours, depending on the student's counseling certification goals and their state of residence.

Students in the program gain an in-depth understanding of the most common counseling theories, including cognitive-behavioral, reality/choice therapy, existential therapy, and rational emotive behavioral therapy. Upon graduation, students should be well-versed in understanding co-occurring mental disorders, working across cultural differences, and the stages of substance use disorders. For students who have accumulated past graduate credits, up to 12 credits may be transferable to GCU's MS in Addiction Counseling program.

Graduate Tuition: $20,912

Score: 85.9

#4. Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion

Marion, IN

Master of Arts in Clinical Addictions Counseling


The Master of Arts with a major in Clinical Addictions Counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University is a 48 credit hour program that can be completed online at full or part-time enrollment. The program emphasizes a Christian worldview and a curriculum that encompasses both the behavioral and social sciences. Upon graduation, students in this program are eligible to seek certification as a Master of Arts Clinical Addiction Counselor through the National Association for Addiction Professionals. Course topics include Multicultural Counseling, Appraisal of Individuals and Families, and Psychopathology. Students engage in a 100-hour supervised practicum in IWU's graduate counseling clinic. A supervised internship of six-credits, with a total of 240 hours at a location in the student's area, is also required to complete the degree.

Applicants admitted to the program must possess a Bachelor's degree, with six credits in psychology and six credits in Bible studies. GRE test scores with a minimum on the verbal portion are required, as are three letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Students who have completed some graduate coursework successfully may submit these credits in lieu of GRE scores. The Master of Arts with a major in Clinical Addiction Counseling allows up to nine transfer credits upon approval.

Graduate Tuition: $20,008

Score: 94.1

#3. Washburn University

Topeka, KS

Master of Arts in Human Services/Addiction Counseling


At Washburn University, the Master of Arts in Human Services/Addiction Counseling is a 36 credit hour program where students complete fieldwork at a clinic setting in their region. This program's curriculum meets the criteria set by the NAADAC and allows its graduates to apply for licensure as a clinical addictions counselor in the state of Kansas. Students residing in other states should look into their state's licensure requirements. Coursework covers topics such as Advanced Methods of Group Counseling, Advanced Pharmacology and Substance Use Disorders, and Lifespan Development.

The program may allow the transfer of up to 12 graduate credits upon the approval of the faculty. Placement in fieldwork locations for students who may have criminal histories or are in recovery is carefully considered by the faculty. Every effort is made to place students appropriately, with the understanding that background checks are required for approved practicum experiences. The Human Services Department faculty is made up of the same ten professors who teach and advise students at Washburn University's Topeka campus.

Graduate Tuition: $13,170

Score: 95.7

#2. West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV

Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

West Virginia University Best Online MPH Degrees

The Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at West Virginia University is a 63 credit program where students complete coursework online and attend a residency in Morgantown. The program prepares students for a broad range of potential counseling environments, from working with veterans to counseling clients with brain injuries. Courses cover many topics that focus on patients with disabilities, such as career development and job placement, disability lifespan, and the medical aspects of rehabilitation. The curriculum also emphasizes cultural differences and implementing styles of counseling that best suit the needs of clients. In their final semester, students can apply for certification as a rehabilitation counselor.

Admission application materials include a statement of purpose, GRE or MAT scores, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Prior work experience and the applicant's interview are given equal weight in admissions decisions. Several scholarships and loan repayment forgiveness programs are available for MS in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling students. Western Virginia University has a long history of preparing counselors, going back to assisting veterans returning from World War I.

Graduate Tuition: $11,486

Score: 95.9

#1. University of South Dakota

Vermillion, SD

Master of Arts in Addictions Studies


The Master of Arts in Addictions Studies at the University of South Dakota offers two tracks to completion, depending on the student's background in addictions counseling. The traditional track of 45 credit hours is geared towards students without any prior certification as a chemical dependency counselor. The 33 credit hour advanced track was designed for current counselors with Level II or Level III Chemical Dependency Certification. Both tracks offer optional specializations in psychopathology and relapse prevention. Elective courses in the program represent a broad range of topics such as addictive family systems and family counseling, Native American and Substance Use and Addiction, and the History and Culture of Addiction.

The MA in Addictions Studies program at USD is supported by ten full-time faculty members. Upon graduation, students in this program will be eligible to apply to the highest level of credentialing given by the state of South Dakota. South Dakota's requirements may differ from the student's state of residence. The University of South Dakota has numerous scholarship and research opportunities related to addiction and mental health, such as the Center for Brain and Behavior Research.

Graduate Tuition: $16,647

Score: 100.00

Find A Degree is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.